Saturday, 16 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the discourses from the Sacred Scriptures speaking to us about two great persona in the Old and New Testament, whom through the revelation of Our Lord Jesus Himself, revealed the link between them. In the first reading, we heard about the prophet Elijah from the prophet Isaiah, who wrote about the wondrous miracles he performed, as well as the miraculous circumstances surrounding the moment when Elijah was taken up into heaven by flaming chariots, as one of the greatest of God’s prophets.

And then, in the Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus spoke about the prophet Elijah, who according to the prophecies of the prophets, would come again, because he did not suffer death but lifted up into heaven by the will of God. And He explained indirectly that the prophet Elijah had indeed come again into the world, but many of the people did not believe in Him, and His disciples deduced that Jesus was referring to St. John the Baptist, who was the Herald of the Messiah.

Whether St. John the Baptist was truly Elijah in person who came down from heaven, was not really known to us, and in one occasion in the Gospel, when the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law asked St. John the Baptist, whether he was the prophet Elijah, he denied that he was the prophet. However, whatever God has done, is a mystery of our faith, and through the revelations that Our Lord Himself has revealed, our faith indeed has become richer and more meaningful.

For both the prophet Elijah and St. John the Baptist were truly faithful and devoted servants of God with many parallels to their stories. They had to contend with powerful rulers and kings, as the prophet Elijah had to deal with the wicked kings of Israel, particularly the king Ahab and his wicked wife, Jezebel, who led the people into sin of idolatry and pagan worship, while St. John the Baptist had to contend with king Herod Antipas who unlawfully married Herodias, his brother’s wife, as well as with the influential Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

And the prophet Elijah had to flee from the wrath of the king for his works and wander in the desert, for many days, weeks and months, surviving in the wilderness, much like St. John the Baptist who lived in the same wilderness, while working the good works of the Lord, preparing the way for the Lord’s coming. Despite all the challenges and difficulties that these two faithful servants of God faced, they remained true and faithful to the missions to which they have been called to do.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on the lives and contributions that both the prophet Elijah and St. John the Baptist had done in their lives, let us be inspired by their zeal and commitment, in serving God and obeying His will, despite the challenges and difficulties which they had to face day after day, facing rejection and ridicule even from those who are close to them, much like Our Lord Himself.

As faithful Christians, all of us should walk the same path that Christ Himself had walked, the path of the cross, and the great sufferings associated with that cross. Did Christ not say that those who follow Him ought to take up their crosses and follow Him? If we are to be true Christians, then we must be prepared to face the difficulties and challenges which may come our way as we live our lives according to our Christian faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all prepare ourselves thoroughly for the celebrations of Christmas, that we may celebrate it worthily with true joy, rejoicing at the anniversary of the Lord’s arrival into this world. Let us devote our effort, time and attention, to serve the Lord with ever more commitment and faith. May the Lord strengthen our faith, and may He bless us all with His guidance and help, that we may continue to persevere in faith. Amen.

Saturday, 16 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 17 : 10-13

At that time, the disciples of Jesus asked Him, “Why do the teachers of the Law say that Elijah must come first?”

Jesus answered, “So it is : first comes Elijah; and he will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come; and they did not recognise him; and they treated him as they pleased. And they will also make the Son of Man suffer.”

Then the disciples understood that Jesus was referring to John the Baptist.

Saturday, 16 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 79 : 2ac and 3b, 15-16, 18-19

Listen, o Shepherd of Israel, You, Who sit enthroned between the Cherubim. Stir up Your might and come to save us.

Turn again, o YHVH of hosts, look down from heaven and see; care for this vine, and protect the stock Your hand has planted.

But lay Your hand on Your instrument, on the Son of Man, Whom You make strong for Yourself. Then, we will never turn away from You; give us life, and we will call on Your Name.

Saturday, 16 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Sirach 48 : 1-4, 9-11

Then came the prophet Elijah, like a fire, his words a burning torch. He brought a famine on the people and in his zealous love had them reduced in number. Speaking in the Name of the Lord he closed down the heavens, and on three occasions called down fire.

How marvellous you were, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! Who could ever boast of being your equal? You were taken up by a whirlwind of flames in a chariot drawn by fiery horses. It was written that you should be the one to calm God’s anger in the future, before it broke out in fury, to turn the hearts of fathers to their sons and to restore the tribes of Jacob.

Happy are those who will see you and those who die in love, for we too shall live.

Friday, 15 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about God and His revelation, that His ways are not like that of the ways of the world. What is acceptable to the world may not be acceptable to God, and vice versa. In the first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, God mentioned how had the people obeyed Him and listened to Him, they would have prospered and had joy with them.

This was in context of the history of the time, because at the time of the prophet Isaiah, the kingdom of Israel has been divided into two parts, the northern kingdom also known as Israel, as well as the southern kingdom of Judah. And both kingdoms warred against each other many times, and more importantly, they were beset by many enemies surrounding them.

Many people suffered from the repeated invasions and raids, and in just a few years after, the northern kingdom would be conquered by the Assyrians, and its people carried off into exile. This sets up therefore, the context in which the Lord’s words truly rang true, because most of the kings of the northern kingdom and many of the kings of the southern kingdom have disobeyed the Lord and led the people into sin.

That was why the Lord was not pleased with them, because they constantly disobeyed Him and chose to walk down their own paths. They would not listen to His prophets and messengers, and preferred to remain in sin and rebellion against Him. They trusted more in the powers of the world and in worldly matters rather than to put their trust and faith in God.

That is why they also hardened their hearts against the Lord when He came to them, and sent His herald, St. John the Baptist, to prepare them to receive His truth and message. That is because they were not thinking in the same way as the Lord does, and they thought in the way that the world thought. To them, the Lord’s message is weird and unacceptable, as they were unwilling to let go of their worldly ways and affairs, and as a result, they rejected the truth of God, and even persecuted Him and His disciples.

For all of us Christians living today in this world, all of these historical examples and precedents from the time of the prophet Isaiah and from the time of Our Lord Jesus Himself, should be clear reminders for each one of us, that as Christians, we should seek to be faithful to the Lord and follow His ways, even when the conventions and wisdom of the world say otherwise. And there may even be moments when we may be ridiculed and rejected by the world, and even by those known to us when we are faithful to God and do His will.

But we should not be afraid, or be hesitant to be faithful because of all these. If we see the Scripture passages today, we will realise just how much ridicule, rejection and difficulties that the prophets had to encounter, because the people refused to listen to them or to believe in their message. And not least, Our Lord Jesus Himself experienced ridicule, rejection and persecution because of His works among His own people.

This should inspire us to persevere more fervently in living our faith more faithfully in each and every days of our lives. We should spend more time and effort trying to listen to the Lord, and to align ourselves ever more closely to Him. Let us do our best from now on, that we may be able to draw closer to God, and drawing our strength from Him, may we all remain true to our faith despite the challenges and difficulties we may face in this world. May God be with us always, now and forever. Amen.

Friday, 15 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 11 : 16-19

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Now, to what can I compare the people of this day? They are like children sitting in the marketplace, about whom their companions complain : ‘We played the lute for you, but you would not dance. We sang a funeral song, but you would not cry!’”

“For John came fasting, and people said, ‘He is possessed by a demon!’ Then, the Son of Man came. He ate and drank; and people said, ‘Look at this Man : a glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet, wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

Friday, 15 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 1 : 1-2, 3, 4 and 6

Blessed is the man who does not go where the wicked gather, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit where the scoffers sit! Instead, he finds delight in the Law of YHVH and meditates day and night on His commandments.

He is like a tree beside a brook producing its fruit in due season, its leaves never withering. Everything he does is a success.

But it is different with the wicked. They are like chaff driven away by the wind. For YHVH knows the way of the righteous but cuts off the way of the wicked.